…they just fall apart at exactly the wrong time.
While vigorously knocking on wood, I think about that every time I fire up Kermit, my (yes) green Toyota Solara, the model they don’t make anymore; I bought mine when they were first introduced back at the time Bill Clinton was hanging on to make it through his second term. That was the fall of 1998 and my snappy coupe came complete with a CD player and a cassette player.
But old Kermie’s days may be numbered: 165,000 miles and counting. So the issue becomes whether or not to sink major dollars into needed repairs or dump megabucks into a down payment, along with subsequent deletions from the monthly fund. And more than that, there’s the emotional factor.
While most people move through new cars like today’s lunch, my approach is much more deliberate: In the past 25 years I’ve owned exactly two cars, both purchased new, and both driven until the wheels were falling off. I didn’t plan it that way, it just happened.
The ubiquitous they say that you can have — or in this case, buy — anything you want; it’s simply a matter of what you agree to give up. The key here is the “want” part, and since I aspire to a BMW 3-series, I can’t see that I have enough to give up. (The exchange required to leave the dealer’s parking lot in a Porsche Boxster is out of the question.)
To be sure, I don’t reach this quandary alone. It’s just the matter of scale. You get to the kinds of age numbers that my cars have reached and you begin to wonder if there isn’t more involved, as in giving up, so to speak, on a beloved family member. On the day a dozen years ago when I left Old Blackie at the dealer as I drove smoothly away in Kermit, I felt like a cur, abandoning my faithful steed in his time of greatest need — even though I assured him of being consigned to years of stud service with lesser Toyotas. Turns out that he actually ended up on Skid Row downtown minus his wheels and I was still getting notes from the DMV claiming I was the legal owner.
So now it may be Kermit’s turn to be set out to pasture, hopefully with kinder results.
Not that I am alone in nursing an older car through its advancing years. A former colleague continues to drive a 15-year-old Mercedes that was formerly owned by her dad, and she insists that it’s still running just fine.
Then too, there was a Pinto that was first owned by my brother, then owned by my dad, who loaned it to me for two or three years back in the day. And after I had run up some miles, Dad drove it for another couple of years, up until the day the gear shift simply collapsed onto the console and the weary Pinto breathed its last.
All of which, if you think about it, is serious proof that cars do last big time here in southern California. Spared from the wretched Northeast weather that I grew up in, cars here don’t have to suffer alternate spates of deadly cold to blistering summer heat, as well as salted roads that quickly lead to rust that spreads through body parts like a cancer. Small wonder that people in New York and elsewhere north of the Carolinas replace their cars at two- and three-year intervals.
Then again, Kris remarks about a well-used Buick that she was offering for sale; the prospective new owner took it around the block for a test-drive and seemed happy until the very moment he pulled up in front of Kris’ house, where the transmission fell out onto the street.
I worry that Kermit might one day soon turn in a similar performance.